Viral Markeing and Word-of-Mouth Marketing to be Policed

The Washington Post reports on new guidelines around the hottest buzzword of the decade, “word-of-mouth-marketing.”

“The Federal Trade Commission yesterday said that companies engaging in word-of-mouth marketing, in which people are compensated to promote products to their peers, must disclose those relationships.”

This would have a sweeping affect across the marketing world, and would try to redraw lines that had become hazy on the web. Some examples of such marketing online:

“Word-of-mouth marketing can take any form of peer-to-peer communication, such as a post on a Web blog, a page for a movie character, or the comments of a stranger on a bus.”

As Tony Hung and Brian Clark point out, this could end the reign of many websites that look as though they are providing unbiased information, but are really, ” fake personalities, fake blogs, or paying people on the sly to shill your product…”

Scott Karp points out:

“This is also a bucket of cold water on the use of social networks like MySpace and Facebook to engineer “viral” product recommendations and other such word-of-mouth marketing schemes… Just when you thought it was safe to “monetize” everything “social”…”

Darren Rowse is left with these questions:

  • How they’ll police it?
  • Whether this will only apply to US bloggers (I’m presuming so)?
  • How it will impact sites that have many tens thousands of pages with deep link affiliate promotions already in their archives? Will it be retrospective?
  • How they’ll define what is and isn’t a disclosure?

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